Three hard lessons from the proposed-yet-almost-sold-out Trade Centre #vote2014ws

Reports are now circulating that the proposed “trade centre” in the old Southwire Building is, in fact, 60-70% sold out.

Even worse, it is alleged by the Global Times http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/777258.shtml) that ‘The Office of the US Trade Representative named the city [Yiwu,  the apparent sponsor of the project] on its 2011 and 2012 global “notorious markets” list, saying that “these wholesale markets are a center for the export of infringing goods to international markets.’ (with thanks to Arnold Neufeldt-Fast who highlighted this).

In order not to repeat some painful mistakes, three lessons can be learned here.

(1) The new council needs a communication strategy that works: Professional media releases; Quarterly newsletters from Councillors; informal social media town halls; and annual town halls.

For the proposed trade centre, did we know the implications of the public meeting held in January 2014? (no). Were we told that Council approved a significant by-law change and Official Plan Amendment – all without a site plan? (no). Were we even told why the Mayor of Stouffville was going to China (no).

We need better, more open and transparent communication.

(2) Stouffville’s Urban Design Guidelines must be rigorously adhered to. What are the Urban Design Guidelines, you may rightly ask? Well, in a nutshell, they are a set of guidelines meant to ensure Stouffville develops with the look and feel of our Heritage.

The site plans originally submitted for the re-development of the old Southwire Building did not, as far as I can tell, in any way adhere to the guidelines.

At least this can, and must be changed. If there has to be a new site, let’s at least make sure it fits in with our vision of what Stouffville is to look like.

(3) Council approved this project in April. Who on Council told us? By approving this project the outgoing Council has left a massive headache for the incoming Council. If it is possible to rollback this approval, it will still be very difficult and very costly.

It is time for a change. I believe I’m part of that change, and more than ever I’m asking for your vote for Ward 4 Councillor Oct 27.

Oct 22 update: The Mayor held a press conference today. Here is a link to the official release: http://www.townofws.ca/en/town-hall/resources/Documents/MediaReleases/WS_Media_Release_and_Fact_Sheet_-_Trade_Centre_-_Ocober_22_2014.pdf

Jim Priebe

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